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For Every Child, Every Right

Human rights are inherent entitlements which come to every person as a consequence of being human. A fundamental element of protection of these rights is the recognition that States have the primary responsibility of protecting the human rights of all persons within their territories. Children also share protected universal human rights with all other persons but, in addition, because of their dependence, vulnerability and developmental needs, they also have certain additional rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) provides a comprehensive code of rights which offers the highest standards of protection and assistance for children as the near universal acceptance of the Convention establishes it as a set of international norms that are the basic minimum rights that children are entitled to.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) can be applied to everyone up to 18 years of age, unless it is demonstrated that they are an adult under applicable national law, in which case they can claim the benefits of adulthood, while still being able to claim the protection of the CRC. The Committee on the Rights of the Child ensure that legislations made by states are fully compatible with the CRC by incorporating it into domestic law and further ensures that its principles take precedence in cases of conflict with national legislations.

In many countries, local governments are increasingly assuming responsibility for protecting child rights thus making municipal authorities and local branches of national agencies the primary actors in providing basic services for children. Also, where assistance from higher levels of government is lacking, local authorities maintain the legal responsibility to respond as best they can to the situation of children under their jurisdiction.

The CRC goes by four main principles: non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the right to life, survival and development, and the right to participation.

The theme of non-discrimination under Article 2(1) of CRC is of special importance for protection of refugee and displaced children. It relates to the recognition that every child within a Member State's jurisdiction should be given the opportunity to enjoy the rights recognized by the Convention without regard to citizenship, immigration status, or any other status.

The principle of best interests under Article 3 (1) of CRC is not a new concept, it is particularly important in the context of the CRC, because, for the first time, it clearly links the child's best interests to respect for and fulfilment of his/her rights in the case of separated and detained children.

Right to life, survival and development under Article 6 of CRC talks about the states must adopt appropriate measures to safeguard life and must refrain from any actions that intentionally take life away along with ensuring the right to an adequate standard of living, housing, nutrition and the highest attainable standards of health while also looking after the harmonious development of the child, including at the spiritual, moral and social levels, where education plays a key role.

Participation under Article 12 (1) of CRC ensures that the child has the right to influence decisions affecting his or her life and children should be assured the right to express their views freely, but also that they should be heard and that their views be given due weight.

The rights established in the CRC can be usefully divided into four different categories. These categories can assist in highlighting the relevance of the CRC to various aspects of humanitarian activity.

  1. Survival Rights
    Covering the right to life and the needs most basic to existence, it ensures:
    • Availability of clean water and sanitation,
    • Availability and adequate standard of shelter, with humane living conditions,
    • Adequate food ration for the child survival and physical and mental development,
    • Appropriate health care is available to all.
  2. Protection Rights
    Safeguarding children against all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation through:
    • Education, which will assist monitoring, will avoid children from being idle and will provide them with alternatives and restore a daily structure to their lives,
    • Being aware of and reporting incidents of abuse and exploitation, combined with strong advocacy towards statutory authorities, as well as NGOs,
    • Training field staff and refugee leaders and setting up secure camps
  3. Development Rights
    These are the rights required for children to reach their fullest potential in the areas of education, cultural activities, access to information and freedom of thought, conscience and religion. These rights can be implemented by:
    • Ensuring that all children have access to education,
    • Ensuring that children/adolescents have access to non-formal education activities,
    • Ensuring play and leisure by organising dance, drawing, painting and for adolescents, sports, discussions and theatre among others,
    • Providing a stable/safe environment to encourage healthy child development while actively pursuing durable solutions.
  4. Participation Rights
    Giving the freedom to express opinions and to have a say in matters affecting their own lives provides the children with a sense of connectedness. The child's participation rights can further be ensured by:
    • Ensuring that the views of the child are taken into account in decisions affecting them,
    • Making children heard in the refugee status determination process,
    • Participation in discussions including through youth clubs and associations.

There are two Optional Protocols:

The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography which were adopted by the General Assembly in May 2000, and entered into force in 2002. The two Optional Protocols relate to the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict provides that States shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 years shall not take part in hostilities (Article 1), and ensure that persons under the age of 18 years are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces (Article 2) and it prohibits the recruitment or use under any circumstances of children who are less than 18 years old by armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State (Article 4).

The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography calls on each State to proscribe fully, under criminal or penal law, all acts and activities involving offering, delivering or accepting, by any means, a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The Protocol also prohibits the transfer of a child's organs for profit and the engagement of children in forced labour.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. It has inspired governments to change laws and policies and make investments so that more children finally get the health care and nutrition they need to survive and develop, and there are stronger safeguards in place to protect children from violence and exploitation. It has also enabled more children to have their voices heard and participate in their societies, hence committing to make sure every child, has every right.

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